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Oram’s Ides of March

Written By: - Date published: 5:32 pm, July 20th, 2008 - 53 comments
Categories: articles, election 2008 - Tags:

Rod Oram can nearly always be relied upon for insightful analysis that takes debate a step further. In the SSTimes today he asks:

“are we being realistic about the current state of the nation? Each person will have his or her own view. But if, as individuals and a society, we’re gloomier than the facts warrant, we will undermine ourselves. We will fail to acknowledge and build on what we have achieved, fail to be confident and ambitious about the future. Then our worst fears will become reality….

By any realistic measure the economy today is far stronger, more flexible and resilient than it was then; conditions at home and abroad are much better; and New Zealand’s opportunities in the world far greater.

Failing to believe that will lead to three tragic outcomes: companies will sharply cut their investment in themselves, they will stunt their development; as a result, they will make the recession deeper and longer, they will be weaker when the upturn comes; and we will fulfil our worst fears about the New Zealand economy. Thus, now more than ever, this is a time for realism, confidence and ambition.”

With the political hothouse of Parliament returning this week, and Labour looking to convince the electorate that they can offer an agenda for change (whilst maintaining stability), let’s see whether they can also be convincing that we have room for optimism even in the depths of winter.

53 comments on “Oram’s Ides of March”

  1. Walter Ego 1

    I am firmly of the opinion that kiwis are talking themselves into a recession, and if they spent less time taliking about how badi things are and more working harder to get on with their lives, they would fare much better.

  2. T-rex 2

    You might be right, but I don’t think you can ignore the huge number of people who ill advisedly geared way up on real estate and are now going to take a dive, along with the impact of high petrol costs.

    Still, I completely agree that some stupid bunker mentality will only make things worse. Pushing ahead and making up for the lost ground is the solution – I’m just not sure the majority of the population have the vision or the enthusiasm.

    But then again, I’m on a downer at the moment, so probably best to ignore me.

  3. T-rex 3

    I think the problem is as follows:

    Perception:
    House prices are collapsing because interest rates are too high and we’re going into an economic slowdown.

    Reality:
    House prices are collapsing because real estate is a lousy investment vehicle and you’re an idiot who bought into the hype.

    We need to isolate our economy from oil price fluctuations. Unfortunately efforts in that direction are also hampered by idiots. Probably the same idiots who said real estate could never go anywhere but up.

    We need to work out a way to reduce the ability of speculating leeches to mess with our currency. Easiest way I can think of is to just adopt the aussie dollar!

    Orams article is good, but I was actually really impressed by Simon Louisson’s article yesterday here.

    In closing – people, stop investing in housing and finance companies. Get rich quick schemes that add no value at all can never work! What the hell did you think was going to create the wealth you were going to bank?

    ARGH!

  4. simon 4

    what recession ?

    I suspect only when unemployment reaches a high level and morgagee sales skyrocket can we say the shit has hit the fan.

    But until it does, well life is still pretty damn sweet!

    (so what if we drink a little less alcohol, walk a bit more, stop smoking and eat less diary products, probably the best thing for most of us, health wise)

  5. vto 5

    People never listen to talk like Orams column today at times like this.

    The herd is stampeding and more fool the person who stands in the middle shouting “change direction, change direction!!!”.

  6. vto 6

    re the economy, a few months back it was serious gloooom (headlines and stats are always late naturally, so only reported after the event). My coal face suspects a very minor flutter of a lift in the last week or two.

    Provided the entire global financial system doesn’t implode like it almost certainly will.

  7. T-rex 7

    Simon – that’s all very roses and sunshine, but it’s ultimately the same thinking that said “hey, lets worry about negative equity on our 100% mortgage when it happens, for now life’s pretty sweet!

    vto – yup. That was me early last year when my friends were buying houses. I like them too much to say “I told you so”, but it depressed me that people who I KNOW are quite smart can be so dumb.

  8. RedLogix 8

    T-Rex,

    Property in not an entirely lousy investment vehicle. I recall some statistic from somewhere years ago that about 80% of all wealth in this country has been generated from property.

    The problem is that in the last decade the sharp suits have sold it as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme to the masses and you are right it was always bound to end in tears. Some individuals who worked hard and smart DID get rich quick, but overall most will inevitably get caught when the bubble inevitably burst.

    Property is good at is getting rich SLOW. If you are prepared to buy intelligently, gear conservatively, look after your properties, slog it out for the long haul, give your tenants good value and manage your cash flow then you will generally see a worthwhile returnover a period of 10-20 years. But you mustn’t get seduced by the ups and downs of the property cycle.

    The main reason property is so popular is that if you do it right, you are prepared to put the work in, and manage your portfolio intelligently then it is a relatively safe investment compared to the shonky history of our stockmarket.

  9. Dan 9

    Thank you Rod Oram. And I hope Chris Trotter’s effort today gets published.
    The New Zealand Sucks Party has a lot to answer for. Michael Cullen will be judged as one of NZ’s best finance ministers, and Clark will deservedly bolt in come November.

  10. simon 10

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4624737a10.html

    has dur4brains (dad4justice) been a naughty boy ?

  11. vto 11

    Dan, I thought Trotters column today was disgusting and will send voters the opposite way to what he intended. It was nasty, bitter, spiteful, tall poppy knocking, typical “rich prick” commentary which, to me, indicated a deep misunderstanding of people and society.

    It was exactly the type of comment that has turned people away from labour imo.

    Trotter’s eloquence with language and argument hides some serious flaws in his intellect and his analysis of NZers. Exposed today.

    2c

  12. T-rex 12

    Red – yup, I agree completely, but most of those buying into the property market (in the last few years – the ones who are going to get hurt in the coming year or two) weren’t doing so on the basis of rental returns… or if they were they’re godawful at maths.

    But likewise, can completely understand peoples reluctance to go for the sharemarket. I bet if we shot Faye and Richwhite it’d do a bit to increase the level of perceived accountability for corruption. As well as being totally deserved.

  13. T-rex 13

    Vto – agreed. It was divisive and stupid. He didn’t seem to grasp the significance of the 35% statistic he mentioned. That’s about 1.4 million people Chris – good job.

    All it might do is give some people pause about what Nationals real policy objectives are, but basically I thought it was crap.

    He’s no Rod Oram, that’s for sure.

  14. Dan 14

    I would disagree T-rex. Every time Key speaks he is dog whistling one of the groups that Trotter lists. It may be 35% but there is another 25% who have not committed. Between Oram and Trotter, there is clear territory for Labour to continue down the middle way.

  15. randal 15

    the trouble with the nats is they are not forthright and cant handle a spade being called a spade. the tories were profligate with power last time. they really cant handle it responsibly and when they get called for it they start squealing like stuck little pigs.

  16. T-rex 16

    Dan – Maybe you’re right, and maybe I’m just still a little too young and idealistic to write off 35% of NZ’ers as selfish idiots.

    Especially since I firmly believe that the right holds no monopoly on selfishness or stupidity – by any fair and reasonable standard i’d have to conclude that 70% of NZ are stupid and selfish.

    ‘Course, more than 50% of the US voted for GWB.

    That’s just a bit too depressing for a sunday night.

    .

    Ok – so I’m just depressed now.

    |
    |
    \/

  17. RedLogix 17

    When you look at the record of like Federated Farmers, and the various employer associations, Trotter is dead to rights. The problem is that while what Trotter writes is true in general the significant portion of farmers and wealthy people who do not behave the way he describes will be hurt and angry… and they will be the very ones he should not be alienating.

    So while I sympathise with his underlying ideas and agree with much of the article, in terms of useful political polemic it was probably counterproductive. Sometimes Trotter hits the mark perfectly, and other days he’s off target. Today was an off day.

  18. mike 18

    Trotski’s column sums up perfectly the bitterness and envy of the left.
    I hope he keeps it up though as kiwi’s hate being pigeon holed like that and any farmers or self-made people thinking of voting labour will quite rightly think twice about it after reading that bile.

  19. T-rex 19

    mike, do you have 1.399999 million friends perchance?

    Most people hate being pigeon holed, and you just called about 1.5 million of them bitter and envious. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

  20. “has dur4brains (dad4justice) been a naughty boy ?”

    A typical cowardly spineless lefty / commie / simple Simon comment, who thrives on dilapidated social morals and values !!

    Get a life creep !!!

  21. Dan 21

    Where are these “commie” comments coming from? There is a certain pattern from the bloggers of the right that seem to be following a prompt sheet from Crosby Textor. The last “commies” were Mao (he met Muldoon and died a few days later), and the Russkies who knocked over the wall and are likely to be the oil baron capitalists of the future. Ken Douglas was our most prominent commie, and he is now a much praised New Zealander .
    You are a sad case, Dad.

  22. RedLogix 22

    mike,

    From time to time I get to sit on the commuter train from Masterton and some of the conversation I overhear from various ‘farming types’ conforms exactly to the stereotype Trotter writes about. What he writes about the calcivirus, the ‘fart tax’, and land access issues is factually correct. And these are issues that Federated Farmers were in up to the eyeballs.

    When writing about ‘the rich’ he is on less solid ground, but the examples he gives are real all the same.

    The ECA ripped up workers rights and stole billions from them, setting back wage growth for a decade.

    Far too many landlords cheerfully wrack-rented their tenants when the accomodation supplement came along. In many provincial towns these heartless bastards were making 20-30% plus returns off rundown hovels that should have been remodelled with bulldozers.

    And his point about the wealthy resenting every cent of tax they pay can be seen in the light of all the tax minimising, rorting and avoidance schemes (Winebox anyone?) that we have seen over the decades. And National’s longtime theme of ‘tax cuts’ structured to benefit the richest at the expense of all the rest of us.

    As for the ‘reactionaries’ … one word… Kiwiblog.

  23. mike 23

    T-Rex, I’m making the comment on a left blog not in the Sunday paper, hell 25 people read this blog regularly and they ain’t undecided voters.

    Trotski called on hels to step down a few months ago and after todays piece I think he might be CT’s latest recruit.

    BTW – will The Standard resume posts on the polls now that labour have scabbed a few green votes in the latest results?

    [lprent: You could ask Tane. He usually does the posts on polls. But I think he has been busy recently.]

  24. RedLogix 24

    Dan,

    Nah, the ‘commie’ line is just standard D4J drivel that he comes out with when he looses self control.

    At the same time Simons stupid dig over the fire in Levin is totally out of bounds. Unless he’s has moved recently I didn’t think D4J lived anywhere near Levin.

  25. T-rex 25

    mike – well in that case you’re presumably including me in your categorisation. Love to know who you think I’m envious of, and why.

    Bitter – yes, a little, just at the moment. I’m fed up with trying to convince stupid people of the error of their ways, and the reason i’m bitter is that my morals won’t allow me to just abandon them to their misfortune so I keep paying for their mistakes. But I’m only fed up for now, I’ll get some enthusiasm back soon.

  26. “looses self control.”

    Reacting too insane comments in the real world is NOT losing control Redlux!

  27. RedLogix 27

    T-Rex,

    Yeah fed up is feature of modern life, especially if you have any sensitivity to the myriad issues of injustice and exploitation around us. We really do live in a toxic society that values money and possesions above all else, and at the expense of both the planet we live on, and our own spiritual and social health. More than anything else we have been atomised, reduced to considering ourselves little blocks of individualistic ego whose sole purpose is consumption.

    These people are not stupid, they are just asleep and lack the capacity to see what is happening around them. They have to be awakened first. Some will respond to a gentle shake but most will remain obstinately comatose until forced by outside circumstances.

    In the Matrix everyone who was awake found it lonesome and hurtful. It is unavoidable.

    D4J,

    Ok so reacting is fair enough, but adults learn to breath through their nose for a while until the urge to respond to one stupid remark with an even more stupid one passes.

  28. T-rex 28

    Cheers Red.

    Flipside – blue jellybeans are disgusting.

  29. Quoth the Raven 29

    I think D4J is from Christchurch and is a member of one of those New Zealand Republican parties. I don’t know what they call themselves now. Correct me if I’m wrong D4J.

  30. You’re telling the story Quoth.

  31. T-rex 31

    That would be ‘The Republic of NZ Party’. Attracting the idiot fringe radical munter vote since whenever they started.

    d4j – I cannot believe you started a website called “jugs for justice”. Do you ever stop and WONDER why things don’t go your way in family court?

    “hoop diggity dang it, why has justice forsaken me? Clearly not enough jugs – I’m so on it”.

  32. Quoth the Raven 32

    D4J has his own blog. Interesting. I see we share a similar taste in music but very little else.

  33. Hell the heats on me tonight and Jugs For Justice was started by my female friend Teri from California.
    The Family Court will be held responsible in due time.
    Time to go as the red acid is hurting.

  34. r0b 34

    Bitter – yes, a little, just at the moment. I’m fed up with trying to convince stupid people of the error of their ways, and the reason i’m bitter is that my morals won’t allow me to just abandon them to their misfortune so I keep paying for their mistakes. But I’m only fed up for now, I’ll get some enthusiasm back soon.

    T-rex, we have a lot in common (I suspect I’m older and tireder). Pace yourself – it’s a marathon not a sprint. Don’t burn out. Keep hoping!

  35. T-rex 35

    Yeah, that dang ‘ol family court. I don’t dispute that some of their rules are stupid and discriminatory, but you think you’re helping your case?

    I don’t care who started it. You’re promoting it. Why don’t you change the name of your trust? ‘Children need parents’ is so last year. Liven it up a bit. “Children need parents – and jugs!”.

  36. Jeremy Eade 36

    “Reality:
    House prices are collapsing because real estate is a lousy investment vehicle and you’re an idiot who bought into the hype.”

    Good point but I think you’ve got to have a bit of sympathy for the house buyer who now may be losing money. That hype was whipped up hard.At the peak for about 6 months it went uncontested in the ol mm that this was now a longterm and strong market, so buy a house now or potientally never own one. That was the OFFICIAL messge in the media.

    It’s a terrible thing to influence a market with fear, media should be doing the workers homework when commenting on markets not freaking us out.

  37. T-rex 37

    I do, I’ve got tons of sympathy for them. Some of my really close friends went for it hook line and sinker. And they’re probably in more of a position to survive the aftermath than most. It’s really sad.

    It wasn’t quite uncontested, but people just didn’t want to hear it, so it never caught on.

    However, the people I hold in total contempt are the following:

    Real estate agents, who clipped the ticket and made a killing peddling the scam.

    Mortgage brokers who gave people a false sense of security while taking commissions from banks in return for not bothering to really show around for the best rates.

    Fund managers, who collected huge bonuses for delivering unrealised gains that anyone with half a brain could see were unsustainable.

    I can’t bring myself to blame the average mortgage holder. I just wish they’d think a bit harder.

  38. Rex – you missed out the newspapers that were watching there classified advertising move over to trademe and so pumped real estate stories for all they were worth so they could take their pound of flesh in the shape of endless full colour full page advertising.

  39. djp 39

    T-rex, I hear what you are saying about real estate. I was trying to inform some of my friends about “irrational exuberance” but noone wanted to believe it (esp. if they had bought into it with cash)

  40. Kevyn 40

    Labour had 8 years to engineer a controlled deflation of the housing bubble and rightly blame National for distorting the investment market. National’s LAQC was the turbo on this baby. Labour could very easily have turned the boost down by amending the LAQC. They could even have taken advantage of the first winter power crisis to make proper insulation mandatory before building could be sold, rented or leased, thereby making property ladder climbers think twice about what other surprises the government might have had instore for them. What stopped Labour from removing the distortions in the tax system that fuelled the boom? Surely Labour’s constituency is renters not landlords? Surely wise governence requires explaining how this policy benefits prospective home owners in the medium and long term instead living in fear of focus group perceptions.

    Where are the John A Lee’s, the Micky Savage’s, the Nordmeyer’s and Big Norm’s that made one proud to be Labour. Big Norm is the only on that list I’m old enough to remember. My veiws on how the countryx should be run have changed a lot since then but my respect for these politicians integrity hasn’t lessened one iota. But the current bunch sicken me with disgust. Too busy following focus groups to have any time to lead the country forward (or backward). If length of time in office is the sole measure of success then Clark is the most successful Labour PM of all time. IMHO this lot have done less in three terms than each of the previous Labour government’s did in three years.

  41. Kevyn 41

    T-rex, Since you’re in a bit of a down mood at the moment this might not be the best time to ask for clarification of one of your earlier reponses to this post, but I’ll take that risk anyway.

    What did you mean when you argued that efforts to isolate our economy from oil price fluctuations are being hampered by the same idiots who said real estate could never go anywhere but up?

    Did you mean that
    a) rental property investors shifted from buying new inner-city apartments to buying suburban houses, and
    b) the borrowed so much money to buy these suburban rentals that they couldn’t then afford to infill?

    Since both of these actions will have hampered the reversal of the sprawl developments of the 50s and 60s they definitely did our energy security no good at all. Sudies in Portland found that CBD dwellers have half the daily vmt of suburbanites. Even if cbd apartments didn’t dominate the housing market at any point they were a big enough part to mitigate continuing urban sprawl to a significant degree. Apartments and infill housing increases the number of PT customers per route km thus making it more efficient and economically viable. While this can also lead to more traffic the US evidence is that a 10% increase in population density increases traffic density by only 8%, As long as the government gives Transit priorities that prevent substantial spending on urban roadway capacity increases that is actually a positive thing for commuter rail. In this regard National was better than Labour as National’s hands-off approach to roading left Transit/Transfund with the Road Safety Strategy as it’s only Government policy directive that it had to “have regard to” in it’s funding allocations. Hence the perception that National did nothing about Auckland’s congestion. Fixing crash black spots and black routes is what Transit/Transfund was focussed on especially since the BCR calculations valued years of potential life lost more highly when it was an individual life lost in a crash rather than collective lives “lost” in traffic jams.

  42. vto 42

    Interesting thread re Trotters column. There seems quite a bit of agreement with his broad and inaccurate generalisations. I would suspect that few of you know either farmers or rich people. Someone up above based it on overhearing conversations on a train.

    Those comments are EXACTLY like the broad ugly generalisations that get thrown at the dole-bludger, Sth Auckland gangsta kids and (insert group here).

    Talk-back radio on the computer screen.

    Disappointing. But not surprising.

  43. RedLogix 43

    vto,

    I agree that Trotter’s generalisations are far too broad. This is what I said above. Yet as I also said, there will be many farmers and rich people who do not deserve to be painted with the brush he wields and for this reason I think this column is counterproductive.

    Trotter would have been better off directing his attack more specfically to organisations like Federated Farmers and the Employers Associations who have a long and documented history of behaving exactly the as he describes.

    And after all the National Party is in rural areas at least, nothing much more than the political wing of Fed Farmers.

  44. vto 44

    Well put Redlogix. It did seem a very odd column – poorly thought out. Or perhaps Trotter has some other aim.

    It does amuse me how sometimes people pull up other sectors for abusive generalisations, and then go and do it themselves to other sectors. The failings of human nature. Glass houses and stones. I’m glad I’m not human sometimes, ha ha.

    Just one more note re Trotter – a few months back he went on about the end justifying the means, when it came to achieving his political preferences. Encouraged breaking the law, etc. And talking of bomb-making material locations. And then here he is now berating the farmers for doing exactly that with the calcivirus thing..?.!! Poor form.

  45. T-rex 45

    Kevyn – Indirectly, yes. And you’ve just reminded me that I still owe you a response on another thread from a week ago, crap!

    Basically I meant that the present housing crash is largely the result of people failing to think ahead and anticipate the likely outcome. Our huge dependency on foreign oil is largely the result of the same sort of short sighted thinking (who cares that we’re dependent on oil – oil is cheap!).

    There were numerous possible solutions (those you mention above are good examples), but what was really missing was just basic foresight.

  46. r0b 46

    Kevyn: Where are the John A Lee’s, the Micky Savage’s, the Nordmeyer’s and Big Norm’s that made one proud to be Labour.

    Right in front of you. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen.

    Too busy following focus groups to have any time to lead the country forward (or backward).

    Labour don’t govern by focus group, if they did they would never have undertaken some of the unpopular measures that they did. If you’re against direction by focus group, expect National (aka Crosby Textor) to be much much worse in this regard.

    IMHO this lot have done less in three terms than each of the previous Labour government’s did in three years.

    Labour have accomplished plenty during their 9 years, much of it in the last 3. Lest we forget: unemployment down to 30 year lows, crime down, numbers on benefits down, economy growing, Working for Families, superannuation increases, minimum wage raised every year, four weeks leave, 20 hours free early childhood education, fair rents, interest free loans for students, poverty / childhood poverty rates down, suicide rates down, cheaper doctors vists, modern apprenticeships, and employment law which stopped the widening wage gap with Australia. An independent and sane foreign policy. Planning for the long term future via Cullen Fund and KiwiSaver. Strengthening the economy by paying off massive amounts of 70’s and 80’s debt (so reducing previously crippling annual interest charges), a booming rural economy, and with state owned assets (Air NZ, KiwiBank, KiwiRail, breaking up the Telecom monopoly, back to ACC).

    I think history will put Cullen up there with Savage and Big Norm for superannuation and KiwiSaver alone – serious long term structural planning for the economy and for our aging population.

  47. Jeremy Eade 47

    “IMHO this lot have done less in three terms than each of the previous Labour governments did in three years.”

    That’s an interesting proposition. Given that this may be the last term of the present Labour government I wonder what the regrets are (if any) from the participants.

    ” I think history will put Cullen up there with Savage and Big Norm for superannuation and KiwiSaver alone – serious long term structural planning for the economy and for our aging population.”

    Cullen has been the first finance minister in my generation to actually sound like he is acutely aware that citizens are hugely affected by his decisions, especially the poorer members of society.
    Cullen and Clark have provided a stable leadership team, a relationship missing in our domestic politics since at least 1975.

    Cullen’s weakness is arguably

    1) his inability to create or enter into debate about the way we present ourselves financially to the world. Are our systems to control inflation outdated and open to exploitation?

    2) Address our low wage society sufficiently. Wages only go up one way and that’s by negotiation. What needs to be done is to get real and considered wage negotiation back into our economy . Wages are the way we measure the sacrifice of hours of our lives to activities that in many cases detract from the quality of our lives. Wages are our ticket to enjoy the fruits of the wide array of hyper active markets WE (our parents, their parents etc) have created in our fast paced modern marketplace. The economy is primarily about our quality of life, everything else is just the rules we arrange to maximise our “pursuit of freedom.’

  48. Jeremy Eade 48

    “It did seem a very odd column – poorly thought out. Or perhaps Trotter has some other aim.’

    I can’t help thinking if the major papers scrapped all their opinion writers no one would notice. They all seem to want to shock rather than educate, the headline more important than the content of the article. The worst ones seem to be just writing for the 40 cents per word paycheck oblivious to any intent. .and some are just pathologically angry.

    Trotter confuses me. He seems to view politics as an excusable game of trickery which reflects badly on the intent of his own writing.

  49. Matthew Pilott 49

    T-rex, you could learn from r0b – his list of Labour achievements gets bigger every time (and rightly so).

    My views on Trotter’s piece: did his internal monologue accidentally slip out? Those are certainly views held by some people in the groups he mentions, but not all rich are evil, not all farmers are thoroughly self-centred (ok, reactionaries are as he describes from memory, but that group is limited to those who hold those views he mentions…).

    So, what was he hoping to achieve? Distatste by association? One could just as easily list a bunch of very decent people who are planning to vote National, so that can’t be it.

    I suspect that what he’s saying is that such people (as he describes them) make up part of National’s core constituency. That’s perhaps debatable, but I think it’s an important point he failed to mention. If you disagree with this, tell me what side of the spectrum such people would be more likely to vote…

  50. Dan 50

    The groups Trotter identifies are those that often call the tune in National. I have many friends who vote National who are embarrassed by the excesses of the right. They regard Farrar and his mates as the lowest of the low. There are many farmers who are quite liberal. There are many rich folk who admire Cullen’s conservatism, and who do not rate a move to Douglas or English with any relish at all. There are many in the gay community who are fearful of a return to old days. There are many childless couples who hurt every time an anti-Helen Clark putdown is made simply because she has no children.
    Trotter may have stated his case bluntly but there is so much in his comments that resonate truth. Ed Hilary and others suffered because they joined the Citizens for Rowling Campaign, but there are not too many who would own up to being derisive of Rowling now.
    We face the same choice as to where we go in the next election. Key may not be a Muldoon, but his puppet-masters behind the scenes offer an even bleaker prospect for New Zealand.
    PS: What happened to the Trotter article on Stuff. Could someone who kept a copy please post it.

  51. vto 51

    I think he was perhaps being agressive and striking out ..

  52. Kevyn 52

    rOb, Maybe T-rex’s downmood was contagious. That diatribe just seemed to pour out by itself.

    In fact much of what Labour did under Savage was just renaming things (eg, State Advances Corporation, State Highways) and merging existing legislation such as the Pensions Act becoming Part I of the Social Security Act, with no obvious changes to the text, and the Unemployment Relief Act became Part II, with a significantly reduced standdown period. Much of the great public works spend-up would have happened irrespective of what party was in Government. In the case of highways the funding came from increased petrol sales. The increased funding for railways could have gone in tax cuts or been spent on highways as the funding was uncannily identical to the revenue from the unemployment relief tax on petrol.

    State housing was a good idea but with the benefit of hindsight we can say that the quarter acre section approach was seriously wrong.

    Nordmeyer and Rowling had the courage respond to oil shocks by doubling the petrol tax in an effort to reduce petrol consumption and it’s impact on the balance of payment. This government hasn’t been brave enough to do that. In fact it was too scared to even make the small increase requested by the National Road Safety Committee.

    Labour isn’t responsible for increased global commodity prices or any of the economic benefits that flowed directly from them. Householders have been taking on foreign debt as fast as Cullen has been paying it off. Personally, I am inclined to think that if Cullen had cut taxes instead of running surpluses the biggest beneficiaries of those tax cuts would still have taken on debt and would simply have squandered the tax cuts on trips to OZ, flasher cars and flasher appliances – all imported of course. Cullen may have given us the lesser of two evils.

    Perhaps I should state at this point that it is my considered view that all economic theories assume that the entire population make their spending decisions exactly the same way economists do. Thats about as false as any assumption can be. Ipto facto left wing economic arguments are just as fatally flawed as right wing economic arguments. To reduce income disparity I advocate a tax system derived from the polymer manufacturing. Every income earner is taxed at the same percentage – divide the tax revenue by the number of taxpayers – every taxpayer receives that amount. The government should provide only two services – information and monopoly prevention. Get those two right and everything else falls into place.

    As a final note, I must concede that the only area where I know for a fact that Clark and Cullen have been making outrageous claims, exagerating and deceiving is land transport. In this area the Government has definitely been following public opinion instead of shaping it. This time you actually can blame National. If they hadn’t been making dodgy claims about road safety and road funding in the late 90s I probably wouldn’t have spent so many rainy Sundays in the university library copying the numbers from transport annual reports into spreadsheets. Without being able to check the numbers Labour’s land transport claims would have seemed more believable than Nationals. The trigger was the road deaths/petrol price study commented on on frogblog last week that totally refutes the claims Annette King makes in the Land Transport Strategy discussion document that the Government is responsible for the drop in the road toll since 1999. The Harvard Medical School research concludes that the reduction is due entirely to reactions to rising fuel prices – including the doubling of cyclist and motorcyclist fatalities.

  53. Jeremy Eade 53

    “The government should provide only two services – information and monopoly prevention. Get those two right and everything else falls into place.”

    I agree. It would be refreshing to see a party talk honestly about the problems of the marketplace.

    1) A lack of information leading to poor investment and decision making. If risktaking is to be part of the modern economic game plan at least we should look at ways of minimising it with free, proactive access to clear market data and analysis.

    2)Fortress market retention strategy from the larger business players (taken to an ugly artform by our biggest company telecom) or as you say “Monopoly”

    Our economics shouldn’t be this mysterious.

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